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Gold-mine killings 'tied' to government

31 January 2013, 07:54

Khartoum - Amnesty International said on Wednesday that Sudanese security officers were reportedly involved in attacks over gold mining that killed up to 200 people, in one of the Darfur region's worst recent outbreaks of violence.

The unrest displaced more than 70 000 people, the UN has said, citing government figures.

Fighting began on 5 January between members of the Beni Hussein tribe and another Arab group, the Rezeigat, when a Rezeigat leader who is an officer in Sudan's Border Guard force, apparently laid claim to a gold-rich area in Beni Hussein territory, Amnesty said in a statement.

The incident occurred in the Jebel Amir region of North Darfur state, which has seen a resurgence of violence in recent months.

"Gunmen driving government vehicles are alleged to have opened fire on people in the mostly Beni Hussein area of Kebkabiya using grenades and heavy machine guns," Amnesty said, calling for an urgent government investigation.

The London-based watchdog said it had been told by one witness that 53 residents of his village were killed on 9 January by gunmen including border guards whom he named.

"These events come as the government is attempting to exert greater control over licensing and export of gold, in a context of fiscal crisis, depleted foreign exchange reserves, and widespread gold smuggling," Amnesty said.

Darfur officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

International peacekeepers, citing government figures, said more than 100 people were killed but humanitarian sources told AFP the Beni Hussein tribe was reporting a far higher toll.

The sources, declining to be named, said the incident was the worst example of inter-Arab violence to emerge in the past two years as government-linked Arab groups got "out of control" and turned on each other.

One humanitarian source said the Beni Hussein had refused to pay newly imposed government mining fees adding up to "huge, huge money".

Amnesty said despite the signing of a government-brokered truce between the two tribes on 17 January, attacks were reported to have continued and tensions remained high.

More than one million people are living in camps for the displaced in Darfur, a decade after rebels began an uprising.

Although violence is down from its peak and rebel-government clashes continue, banditry, inter-Arab and tribal unrest also plague the far-west region.



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